In recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the Special Olympics, Oak Brook Polo Club has teamed up with BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding and Educational Center and Special Olympics Illinois to host a celebration fundraiser on Sunday, June 24th at the Prince of Wales Field. The event will feature an equine demonstration while highlighting a number of Special Olympic athletes and take place prior to the finals of the Drake Challenge Cup between Oak Brook (USA) and Escuela de Polo Mexico (Mexico).
“We are honored to partner with the Special Olympics and BraveHearts, and be among Chicago’s professional sports teams to celebrate this momentous occasion and support the Special Olympics movement,” says Jim Drury, President of the Oak Brook Polo Club. “Equestrian sports and therapy has proven to be a successful method in the treatment of mental and physical challenges, and we are thrilled to showcase this to the public under the backdrop of polo. Join us and celebrate this historical achievement.”
In July 1968, nearly one-thousand athletes with intellectual disabilities from twenty-six states and Canada came together at Soldier Field for the first ever International Special Olympics Games. The event became a significant moment in a worldwide civil-rights movement for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Now, fifty years later, Chicago will once again host athletes in a variety of competitions and events from July 17-21st at Toyota Park, Soldier Field and Huntington Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island.
“We’re grateful to the Oak Brook Polo Club and BraveHearts for the opportunity to bring recognition to the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics,” says Dave Breen, President and CEO, Special Olympics Illinois. “We look forward to celebrating the past, present and future of the movement in our home state – one that served as the birthplace of Special Olympics.”
BraveHearts, a nonprofit organization that provides equine-assisted services to children, adults and military veterans, will organize the equestrian demonstration. They are the largest PATH (Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship) International horse program in the country serving veterans at no cost. The vison of BraveHearts is to bring hope, joy and unlimited possibilities through the healing power of a horse.
“For the last 6 years BraveHearts has hosted the Special Olympics Illinois Equestrian Games giving athletes from various programs and locations across the state a safe and top-quality venue at which they can compete. Our athletes train hard all year and experience so much joy at Special Olympics. We look forward to the Oak Brook Polo giving athletes a rewarding experience as they prepare for the Special Olympics in October, 2018,” states Meggan Hill-McQueeney, BraveHearts President and Chief Operating Officer.
Gates are scheduled to open at 12:30 p.m. with shuttles running to and from the free parking lot at the Drake Oak Brook Hotel (2301 York Road). The Special Olympics equine demonstration will take place at 1:15 p.m., followed by on-field polo festivities at 2:15 p.m. and polo match at 3:00 p.m. Equine athletes and horses will be involved in many of the polo festivities including the team parade, national anthems, divot stomp and post-match trophy ceremonies. Special Olympics volunteers will be onsite during the match collecting donations and helping to run a 50/50 Raffle, which will be preceded with fun raffle giveaways throughout the afternoon before the big draw at the end of the match.
Ticket and event information can be found by visiting www.oakbrookpoloclub.com. Donations to the Special Olympics can be added when purchasing online or onsite in amounts of $5, $10, and $15.
About Oak Brook Polo Club
Founded in 1922 by legendary businessman, Paul Butler, the Oak Brook Polo Club is an American Polo treasure and one of the oldest polo clubs in the United States. It was once the sport’s epicenter for elite professional polo in the United States and served as home to the U.S. Open Polo Championship for twenty-four straight seasons and other prestigious international and national polo tournaments. For decades, the Club has been a popular Sunday tradition and social scene known for entertaining Hollywood celebrities, dignitaries, royalty and Chicago’s distinguished. Today, Oak Brook Polo Club hosts matches throughout the summer season and continues to attract thousands of fascinated spectators who marvel at the athleticism and majesty of this timeless sport.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global organization, with over 5 million athletes in 170 countries around the world, that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport, every day around the world. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, solving the global injustice, isolation, intolerance and inactivity they face. Special Olympics Illinois provides opportunities for more than 23,000 of these athletes, more than 20,000 Young Athletes (ages 2 – 7 years old), 45,000 volunteers and thousands more people statewide through 11 Region programs in all 102 counties of the state. Special Children’s Charities is the fundraising arm of Special Olympics in Chicago. In cooperation with the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Schools and Special Olympics Illinois, Special Children’s Charities is committed to providing year-round sports training, recreational and social programs for the children and adults of Special Olympics in Chicago.
BraveHearts, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, was first started in 2002 in Harvard, IL (McHenry County) initially serving a small handful of children and adults with various diagnoses through therapeutic horseback riding. In 2007, BraveHearts opened their doors to military veterans, serving veterans with zero costs charged to veterans. In 2009, BraveHearts added a second farm. Both farms now continue to operate year round for therapeutic riding, hippotherapy and serving veterans.